Photo : cinch Championships
Canada’s Denis Shapovalov crossed paths with 2019 champion Feliciano Lopez for the second week in a row in the second round of a grass-court tournament.
It would always be a tough task, given the Spaniard’s record on grass and at the London Queen’s club cinch Championships in particular, where he has won two times. Shapovalov, the No. 2 seed, on the other hand, had never gone past the second round at this tournament.
The first half of the opening set was dominated by short rallies and big serves. However, it was Lopez who blinked first, and on his second break point faced, the 39-year-old double-faulted to gift the game to the Canadian.
Shapovalov kept holding comfortably despite landing less than half of his first serve deliveries. Showing some great touch at the net, the two-time champion fought to keep himself in the first set, but he could not maintain a high level as his younger rival broke for the second time to close the opener, 6-2, in 30 minutes.
With the second set following much of the same pattern as in the first, Lopez still struggled to find any rhythm on serve. Shapovalov, while still not getting his first serves in often, kept himself calm and blasted impressive second serves, frustrating his opponent.
In the fourth game, the Spaniard’s misfortune continued, with finishing shots misfiring as more unforced errors finally cost him the game. The 22-year-old, for most of the match displaying a cool expression on his face, let out a huge “come on!” after the break.
With not much going in the defending champion’s favour, Lopez found himself in more trouble serving down 1-4. First serves deserting him, unforced errors continuing to plague his performance, and a lucky net-cord by Shapovalov made the game difficult for the former World No. 12.
Finally finding some much-needed good serves and hitting the lines, Lopez managed to come through a tough hold and survive a little longer in the second-round encounter.
The hold seemed to give Lopez a boost of confidence. He started to be more consistent, taking advantage of the low first-serve percentage by Shapovalov. However, timely aces finally pulled the World No. 14 out of his most difficult game of the match, with two deuces. Shapovalov rightfully let out his emotions, shouting after arguably his most important hold of the day.
Down match point in the following game, it was Lopez’s time to find great serves which allowed him to hold for 3-5.
It would now be the nearly impossible task of breaking Shapovalov’s serve if he wanted to stay alive in the match, not having generated a single break point yet. It would be no different from their last meeting though, as Shapovalov held to love and denied break points for two weeks in a row for the veteran.
Asked about how to deal with the biggest servers on grass in his post-match interview, Shapovalov gave a lighthearted answer: “I close my eyes and I pray, to be honest!”, he said laughing.
Leylah Fernandez ousted in Birmingham battle
Earlier today, before Shapovalov took to the courts to play his second-round match, Leylah Fernandez had an especially difficult challenge ahead of her. The Montrealer was attempting to cause a big upset by defeating No. 2 seed Ons Jabeur at the Viking Classic Brimingham.
Fernandez showed herself a worthy opponent to the World No. 24, taking the match to a deciding set. Coming back from an early break in the final set, she managed to keep the encounter close until the tie-break.
Unfortunately, her fight was not enough at the end and her more experienced opponent ran away with it, shutting the door at 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(3) at the end of the 2:05 second-round meeting.